Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
By: John Newton, 1725-1807
When I read the word veil the first thing that comes to mind for me is a bridal veil. This is not what the hymn is referencing, but it does introduce a whole different set of images. Veils are meant to cover something up or keep something hidden, even if not entirely, and that is exactly what we are going to think about here.
In the simplest, most direct sense, the veil referenced here is an allusion to the fact that we can not clearly see the amazing reality of heaven, and all that will be ours in that blessed reality. The truth described here is the hope we have in eternal life, even when this life ends. Using the phrase “within the veil” conjures up a few other rich images though that are in some ways connected.
Jesus has made Heaven available to us through His sacrifice. Even though it is our inheritance, we do not yet possess it. When was the last time you spent a few minutes and simply thought about eternity. Images like this sunset mountain scene stir up within me a longing for more than this life affords. There is a sense of expectancy and hope within the misty mysteries of forever.
Think for a moment about the two pictures the hymn writer has so skillfully juxtaposed. Heart and flesh failing, joy and peace unveiling. When my heart fails me, then I shall know that joy that I only tasted of in this life. When my flesh ceases its strivings, then shall I finally find peace. How often we pray for broken hearts to be mended and fatigued flesh to find new strength, and rightfully so, but fail to thank God for the reminders these faltering blessings usher in to our existence on this side of the veil.
Maybe better than faltering, the word incomplete might suffice. Heart and flesh are blessings, but they are incomplete in that they point us to a better, greater blessing. Which brings us to another veil.
The Old Testament sacrificial system pointed us to a better, greater blessing as well. As a part of the system the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place, by the blood of goats and calves, to atone for the sins of the people once a year. The veil of the temple kept the Most Holy Place beyond view.
When Jesus died that veil was torn in two from top to bottom. As opposed to endless sacrifices, Jesus died once for all and entered the Most Holy Place, by His own blood, to make atonement. [Hebrews 9:12] That veil would not longer block entrance to the Most Holy Place. It was a representation of what Jesus actually accomplished, but we are waiting to behold.
The veil of the Temple, Heaven, and bridal veils are all connected. Here’s how.
We can not see into Heaven, any more than the priests could see into the Most Holy Place. The groom can not clearly see his bride while her veil is down. The Church is the Bride of Christ, and she is getting ready to meet her Bridegroom. That will take place in Heaven, and the access to Heaven was granted by Jesus sacrifice. Think about how all this rich symbolism ands context and texture to these wonderful truths through things we know and see, pointing to things we believe which are veiled.
There are definitely some really cool things to think about. Take a few minutes and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to wrap you mind around the incredible treasure that is waiting for you, within the veil.
Jesus, thank You for giving me access to pass through the veil when my time comes. Give me courage to face that day with the hope that what I have longed for will be realized. Cause me to long for it now so that realization will be even sweeter. Help me love You with all my mind as I wait! In Jesus name. Amen.
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